Learning from others’ mistakes

Negative life experiences can either motivate a person to move on to better things or completely deflate them and make them lose hope.

There have been some things happening to the people around me recently and it has caused me to reflect on this in my own life.

My entire life, I saw both sides of this coin very clearly. I grew up in a family where many of the people were defeated by life and by their personal failures. Addictions, adultery, divorce, anger, self-hatred, jealousy… the list goes on. It wasn’t that they couldn’t get back on their feet. They just didn’t know how to and were often too prideful to make deep and lasting changes. This led to others either harshly criticizing them or enabling them, or both. (Self-pity and condemnation are ugly. People need Love, not rejection or enabling.)

The flip side was that I went to a private Christian school where I was surrounded by peers who came from somewhat wealthy families with the appearance of success and happiness.

I struggled with this divide. I was encouraged to work hard in school, go to college, and get a stable and well-paying job, because then my life would be better. I wouldn’t have to struggle like so many did before me. I looked around me and saw that those whose families did exactly that had success in their jobs but they still had many of the same personal failures and problems as those who didn’t have financial success. Those children did not have it easy. Many of them were already making bad decisions for their lives even with silver spoons in their mouths. And the others lacked compassion for those who made the bad decisions, and often ostracized them.

Even as a child I could see something wasn’t right with this picture. For a long time, this actually made me very angry. I got tired of people telling me how to succeed and what would make me (them) happy and what I was “supposed to do” in my decision making. I was also told to shut up when I voiced my disagreement about the enabling of a people who had addictions because “they can’t help it”. I have had to watch people slowly kill themselves because they are being enabled. From where I’m standing, this is assisted suicide.

To sum it up, people wanted me to be successful, but I wasn’t allowed to entertain the things I truly loved and was good at. They wanted me to shun those I disagreed with – unless the person was a loved one. Then I was supposed to keep quiet and enable their bad behavior or else I wasn’t considered compassionate enough. I was expected to spend most of my time around those who were making bad decisions, but I was also expected to be perfect or get criticized if I wasn’t.

And all the while, people put the standard of a life lived for Christ on me, without being an example of that to me.

Everything I experienced was contradicting. No one around me could even see that they weren’t living anything what they told me to do. I remember thinking that they needed to practice what they preached. It was a classic case of “do as I say, not as I do”. Which I strongly disagree with.

I’ve been looking back at this lately and I can see now that this really sparked something in me. I believe God showed me this early on so that when I gained a better relationship with Him, like I have now, He could remove the anger and I could make more solid and Spirit-led decisions for my life and try to be a better example to others.

I have continually seen people I love destroy their lives over bad decisions that should have been obvious to even a young believer in Christ. I see families that make the same mistakes generation after generation and no one wants to talk about it.

I have prayed that God would cut off the root of this in my life and that my husband and I can be Christ-like examples to our future children. I don’t harbor resentment for what I’ve been through. But I think it is extremely important to learn from where we come from through the lens of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve decided that I will be successful, but not in the way others expect me to be. I will follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and do my best to have compassion for those who don’t know how to do that yet. I want to voice less criticism and talk more about Jesus. I want to encourage others to do the things God has placed in their spirit and not lean on the definitions of success in this world. I want to be the kind of person I needed someone to be for me back then. I know I can’t always get it right. But if I don’t try then I’ll never know what kind of life God has for me.




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